Parliamentarians must set aside partisan interests

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 16 Aug 2012 letter by Mr Alex Chiang.

Mr Chiang thought that Dr Ong didn’t know what happened during the parliament discussions on Dr Wu. From Mr Chiang’s reply, it seems like the other way round – it was Mr Chiang who didn’t know what happened.

Law minister Shanmugam merely showed six cases, a tiny fraction of the thousands of cases relevant to Dr Wu’s case. These six cases were far from adequate to show that Dr Wu’s case was in line with all such cases. It was therefore meaningless to ask Ms Lim to clarify her position since any position based on six out of thousands of cases was bound to be inadequate and meaningless.

It was wrong of Mr Chiang to say that accepting Mr Shanmugam’s argument meant confirming the integrity of the system as there was no way of confirming the integrity of the system just by looking at six cases. To confirm the integrity of the system, all cases must be shown to be in line with Dr Wu’s case. If just one case is not in line with Dr Wu’s case, the integrity of the system is compromised.

It was also wrong to say that Ms Lim didn’t answer clearly. Ms Lim clearly pointed out the inadequacies in Mr Shanmugam’s question, namely that there were other cases that may not be in line with Dr Wu’s case. So even if Ms Lim were to be asked the same inadequate question three hundred times, there could be no clearer answer other than that the question was inadequate.

Mr Chiang should not accuse Mr Low of creating a tense atmosphere when it was Mr Shanmugam who tensed up the atmosphere with his aggressive badgering of Ms Lim to answer his less than adequate question and his refusal to take Ms Lim’s intelligent answers to his inadequate question.

From the video [1], we see that the first four times Ms Lim spoke (8:14, 10:36, 12:03 and 13:36) were in response to Mr Shanmugam’s invitation for her to speak and in all these instances, Ms Lim spoke only after Mr Shanmugam had gone back to his seat to sit down. The first and only time Mr Low came forward (12:28) was while Mr Shanmugam was in the process of going back to his seat to sit down. Thus, in all these instances, both Ms Lim and Mr Low had been most courteous and did not interject Mr Shanmugam.

On the other hand, the video (13:48) clearly shows Mr Shanmugam interjecting Ms Lim even before Ms Lim had completed her sentence about the Tan Jack Saa case.

At 15:54, Mr Speaker prompted Mr Shanmugam to pass the time to Ms Lim but Mr Shanmugam brushed off Mr Speaker and chose to carry on. Ms Lim did the courteous thing of sounding out to Mr Speaker her wish to speak. Mr Speaker also did the courteous thing of putting in Ms Lim’s request exactly after Mr Shanmugam had completed the point he was trying to make and was moving on to his next point.

It was at 23:28, more than 7 minutes later that Ms Lim finally got to speak again but only after Mr Shanmugam had finished speaking and only after Mr Speaker had invited her to speak.

At 23:41, when Ms Lim hardly spoke for 13 seconds, Mr Shanmugam interjected Ms Lim again.

At 25:28, even though Ms Lim was seen to be visibly disturbed by Mr Shanmugam’s insinuation that she had injected politics into the case, Ms Lim did not do what Mr Shanmugam did which was to go to the microphone and actually interject the other person. At 25:33, Mr Shanmugam asked to answer without being interrupted when he already had taken up the lion’s share of the air time, interjected Ms Lim twice and rejected a call by Mr Speaker to pass the time to Ms Lim. Despite all that he had done, he still had the cheek to say that he had given courtesy to Ms Lim to finish when he clearly had not.

The video clearly shows that Mr Chiang was wrong to accuse Mr Low of interrupting Mr Shanmugam when no such thing happened. Mr Chiang was also wrong to accuse Ms Lim of interrupting Mr Shanmugam when it was the other way round; it was Mr Shanmugam who had interrupted Ms Lim twice. By highlighting the one instance where Ms Lim was visibly affected by Mr Shanmugam’s false accusations while ignoring all the other occasions where Ms Lim had been polite and the two occasions where Mr Shanmugam interrupted Ms Lim, Mr Chiang was clearly showing his bias towards Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Chiang felt it would have helped if Ms Lim had given her views clearly after being shown the facts. But Ms Lim did give her views clearly. Not only that, the facts shown were severely inadequate, only a miserable six out of thousands of facts that was hardly sufficient to confirm Dr Wu’s case. The inadequacy of Mr Shanmugam’s question meant that any answer would not have affirmed the integrity of the legal system nor upheld accountability.

Mr Chiang expected parliamentarians to put aside partisan interests to speak for Singapore. Mr Chiang should put aside his when speaking for Singapore.

[1] Oral answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Questions on the Woffles Wu case, 13 Aug 2012,


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